What to Expect

Gamma Knife Surgery (GKS) is a safe, effective and well-established procedure that allows a surgeon to perform brain surgery without actually entering the skull. Despite the name, Gamma Knife Surgery does not involve use of a knife or scalpel at all. There is no incision. Instead, this form of surgery – also known as radiosurgery – uses highly focused beams of radiation to treat precisely targeted areas of the brain. The shape and dose of the radiation is optimized to hit only the target, without damaging surrounding healthy tissue. The procedure is simple, painless and straightforward, and it offers treatment for more than 30,000 patients every year.

The practical advantages are many, including:

  • Treatment is performed in a single sitting
  • There is no cutting or shaving of the patient’s hair
  • Hospital stays are shorter and require less recovery time than traditional surgery
  • Gamma surgery avoids many of the risks of open surgery such as hemorrhage, infection, and cerebral spinal fluid leak
  • The optimized radiation dose minimizes the risk of damage to the brain and thereby preserves normal brain function

The Treatment Procedure

Before treatment your doctor will inform you about the entire procedure, which includes the following four components:

After the Treatment

When your treatment is complete, the head frame will be removed. If you had an angiogram, you might have to lie quietly for several more hours. Some patients experience a mild headache or minor swelling where the head frame was attached, but most report no problems. We can give you pain relievers to relieve these symptoms if they occur. Your doctor will tell you whether he wants you to stay overnight for observation or if you can go home immediately. Either way, you should be able to return to your normal routines in another day or so.


The effects of your treatment will occur over time. Radiation treatments are designed to stop the growth of tumors or lesions, which means that the effect will be seen over a period of weeks or months. Your doctor will stay in contact with you to assess your progress, which may include follow-up MRI, CT or angiography images. These follow-up images may be taken here at UVA or at a center close to your home. Either way, your doctor will provide you with complete instructions on what you need to do.